Opinion: Senate Bill 1350 prevents cities from regulating short-term rentals by AirBnb and others. Nixing it would help ease the affordable housing shortage.
Airbnb and other home-sharing websites and apps are adding to the affordable housing shortage we’re facing. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)
As COVID-19 continues to ravage the country, housing advocates are racing to protect as many as half a million Arizonans from eviction and foreclosure. And yet, as local governments scramble to increase affordable housing options, they are being blocked by the state from implementing an obvious fix: regulating Airbnb and other short-term vacation rentals.
Short-term rentals have been a hot topic ever since 2016, when Gov. Doug Ducey signed Senate Bill 1350, permitting short-term rentals to operate in Arizona and preempting municipalities from governing the industry.
Communities in Maricopa County and elsewhere vocally opposed the bill. Residents, notably in Scottsdale and Paradise Valley, have long criticized the rowdy weekend atmosphere created by these rentals.
But parties were far from residents’ chief concern. In a county that only has 20 affordable homes for every 100 renter households, short-term rentals are removing housing stock from the real estate market and driving up rent.
Investors flip complexes into weekend rentals
Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe and Mesa contained more than 8,200 active short-term listings at the time of writing, according to the data analytics firm AirDNA, and investors are known to flip entire apartment complexes into weekend rentals, removing desperately needed affordable housing options.
Maricopa County’s affordable housing crunch has contributed to an eviction and foreclosure crisis that resulted in at least 46,000 families being put out on the street in 2018, according to New America, a D.C. think tank.
The economic crisis resulting from COVID-19 means that a quarter of Arizona adults expect someone in their household to have a loss in employment income in the next four weeks, and will likely push hundreds of thousands of new families into housing insecurity.
Arizona prevents cities from making rules
And yet, as local governments in the Valley of the Sun scramble to stabilize families and increase affordable housing options, they are being blocked by the state Legislature from implementing already identified remedies like regulating short-term vacation rentals. This type of state-level choke — in this case via SB 1350 — is called preemption, and it’s a national problem.
Preemption occurs when a higher level of government limits or removes a lower government’s authority to legislate on a certain issue. Recent history has shown that it’s difficult to counter preemption laws, but not impossible.
Arizona voters proved that in 2016 with Proposition 206, a ballot initiative that trumped the state’s preemption of local minimum wage and guaranteed paid sick days for workers.
A broad coalition can defeat preemption
Elsewhere, just last year Colorado repealed its preemption of local minimum wage ordinances, the first